BOISE – The state is launching a campaign next month to remind Idaho voters that under a new law, they must provide photo identification to cast their ballots.
Billboard advertisements and public service announcements are intended to decrease confusion during the November general election, said Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst.
About half of states require voters to show identification, but only Idaho and seven other states request photo ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Idaho’s new voting law was tested in several county elections in August. While there were no reported problems, “it did slow things down a little bit,” Hurst said.
“It’s always a concern that people waiting in long lines will get disgruntled and walk away,” Hurst said. “The counties are concerned about it too. That’s why we’re trying to get the word out.”
In Idaho, poll workers must verify that the picture on the identification matches the voter. Those without identification, such as a valid driver’s license or passport, have to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.
The Idaho law is modeled after a South Dakota law passed in 2003, Hurst said.
During the first year the South Dakota law was enforced statewide, several voters complained they were turned away rather than being offered the option of signing an affidavit, a controversy Idaho is working to avoid.
County election workers are being cautioned against turning voters away if they don’t provide photo ID, Hurst said.
Out-of-state voters casting absentee ballots will not be required to provide photo identification.
Lawmakers nationwide have long debated voter identification laws. Supporters say providing photo ID upholds the integrity of the voting system, while critics say it deters potential voters.
“The primary concern is that the impact of photo ID requirements are particularly felt by elderly people, low-income people and often racial minorities,” said Estelle Rogers, an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Project Vote.
U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, took some heat from the state Republican Party last month for sending fliers to thousands of voters with information about the new law.
The Idaho GOP criticized Minnick, who faces a challenge from Republican Raul Labrador in November, for using taxpayer money to send out the fliers while campaigning for re-election.
Minnick’s camp insists the fliers were a nonpartisan effort to inform voters.
“It is obviously a big change to Idaho’s voting law,” said Minnick campaign manager John Foster. “Making sure that people vote and that they know their vote is going to be counted is a nonpartisan thing.”